The Dividing Tide – Episode 05

“I was only coming for a year at first, but the longer I left it the harder it became. If it weren’t for the promise I made to my child, I doubt I’d go back at all.”

“She won’t be a child now, Tom,” Isaac said gently. “She’ll be a grown woman.”

Thomas nodded.

“Nineteen last spring.”

“Old enough to understand, if you was to write to her saying you was staying.”

Thomas shook his head.

“I gave my word I’d go back one day, and that’s what I have to do.”

“That’s a shame, ’cause I bin thinking.” His friend put his pan on the bank and turned to him, his eyes bright. “We’ve known each other a good few years now, ain’t we?”

“Ever since we met on the The Dainty Dancer coming to Savannah.”

“Reckon we have the measure of each other, then, wouldn’t you say?” Isaac stopped, and the sun caught on the crown of his battered black hat as he nodded slowly to affirm his own words.

Thomas raised his eyebrows and laughed.

“Spit it out.”

“Here it is, then. What d’you say to us buying a piece of land and mining it as partners?” He looked Thomas in the eye.

“We know what we’re doing and there’s plenty o’ Lottery owners wanting to sell off bits o’ land hereabouts. I’m sure we could find a spot with a good vein running through.”

Thomas picked out a flake of gold that was glinting in the sun and put it in the leather pouch in his vest pocket. He shook his head.

“This is Cherokee land. It wouldn’t be right.”

“It’s not Cherokee land any more, according to the new laws,” Isaac reminded him. “Besides, that attitude don’t make sense. We both work at Red Leaf, don’t we? That was Cherokee land once, don’t forget.”

“I’m not forgetting.” Thomas frowned. “I’m not saying that’s right, either, but a man needs to work, and we all get by as best we can. But buying land to mine it ourselves, well, that would be like approving what’s happening, and I can’t.” He paused.

“D’you know what really sticks in my craw? This talk about moving the Cherokee away. They’ve lived in these mountains for generations. It’s their land.”

“Them’s strong opinions, Tom,” Isaac said. “I’d be careful who I told ’em to if I was you. Besides, I heard in Riversville it’s all decided.

“They’re sending ’em west of the Mississippi. Soon, too, afore winter sets in. Stop frettin’. There ain’t nothing can be done.”

“Even if that’s true, my answer’s still no. It wouldn’t sit right with me. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.”

For the next half hour there was no sound but the splash of water and the soft rustle of grit as they panned for gold. Thomas knew Isaac was disappointed, but he had to do what he felt was right. What was a man if he wasn’t true to himself?

His musings were interrupted by a movement at the edge of his vision, and he looked up. A woman was walking towards the river’s edge upstream.

Neither young nor old, she wore her black hair in two braids which hung down over a fringed deerskin dress. She walked with a pronounced limp that drew attention to her pretty beaded moccasins.

But it wasn’t her gait which transfixed Thomas’s gaze, nor the fact she was Cherokee. It was because not since falling in love with his wife had he ever seen anyone so lovely.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.